Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Prayers for Joplin

I’ve spent a lot of time this week, crying and praying for the people who lost homes and loved ones in Joplin. And later in the week, crying and praying over the hurting people near Piedmont, Oklahoma.

Like my friend, Marilyn, said the other day, I’ve never seen a tornado because I’m always hiding when one gets close. As an Okie, though, I’ve witnessed the devastation one of those monsters can do.

A looooong time ago, I went to Ozark Christian College (then it was Ozark Bible College) in Joplin. And I loved it. I enjoyed school, loved the town (much bigger than C-Town but still not the Big City) and the surrounding area.

Oronogo–a nearby town–had a strip pit that years earlier had filled with water. I loved visiting that swimming hole, jumping off the cliffs and swimming into the caves.

My second (and last) year at Ozark, Mom came in May with a group of women from our church to the Women’s Clinic at Ozark and brought Sister Amy, who was still a tyke.

The entire C-Town crew and my friend, Bomber, went out to lunch on lunch on Range Line. On our way back, we took a different street than the normal jaunt down 7th Street. We were heading back to the college for classes and afternoon sessions.

I dropped Mom off at one of the Mission Building and Amy, Bomber and I went back to my dorm. Just as we pulled up in front, the tornado siren went off.

I was taught by my parents to respect those warnings, so I threw Amy into the dorm’s bottom floor with Bomber and zoomed back to the classroom building to get Mom.

I stampeded into the classroom, ready to scream over the roar of panicked women, but all I heard was the even tones of the lecturing professor. As I stormed in, the entire room turned and looked at me. (Kinda made me feel like I’d shown up at the Royal Wedding dressed for Sadie Hawkins day.)

But that siren was still echoing in my head and my heart was pounding out of control, so I shouted, “Tornado. We have to go!”

The professor, a Joplin resident for many years, shook his head.”That siren gets hit by lightning all the time and gives false warnings. Don’t worry about it.”

I was ready to argue (you know how it is when you have that gut feeling) but my wise mother stood up. “I’ll go with her.”

We rushed back to the dorm, sat with the others in the hallway of the bottom floor, told stories and sang upbeat songs.

Cheer up, ye saints of God, there’s nothing to worry about. Nothing to make you feel afraid. Nothing to make you doubt. Remember Jesus never fails so why not trust Him and shout! You’ll be sorry you worried at all tomorrow morning.

There was a tornado that day that went right up 7th Street–the street we hadn’t taken–the main street that went between Main and Range Line. It damaged 40 blocks and did $7,000,000 in damage. (A lot of money back then.)

But that’s nothing compared to the total devastation the EF5 tornado caused this year.

One story touched my heart and still brings me to tears today. It’s about a young man named Malachi Murdoch. He’s a recent high school graduate and enrolled at Ozark this fall.

Read about him here.

I hope you’ll join with me in prayer for Malachi, his family and all the residents of Joplin.